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Housing Counsel: Who's Responsible for Areas Outside Your Condo Unit  Housing Counsel: Who's Responsible for Areas Outside Your Condo Unit


Housing Counsel: Who's Responsible for Areas Outside Your Condo Unit

Written By: Realty Times Staff
Monday, June 7, 2021

Question: What responsibility does a unit owner in a high-rise condominium have with respect to external doors, windows, balcony railings, or roof decks? Does a unit owner have any direct responsibility for other than the internal space and contents of his or her unit?

Answer: The answer to your question should be found in your legal documents. In a condominium, there are three basic legal instruments: the Declaration, the bylaws and any rules and regulations.

The Declaration is, in effect, a deed which establishes and defines the condominium and which recites the manner in which the Declarant also called the "Developer" desires to submit the property to a condominium regime. The Declaration describes such matters as the boundaries of the units, the items and areas that will comprise the common elements, including limited common elements, if any, and a determination of the unit owners percentage interest in the common elements.

Your Bylaws are the Bible as to the day to day operation of your Condominium Association. The Bylaws provide for meetings and voting, the manner in which the condominium budget should be prepared, the determination and handling of assessments including special assessments, the filing of assessment liens, the nature of insurance coverage and restrictions on the use of the units and the common elements.

The Bylaws also provide that the Board of Directors of the Association has the power to establish rules and regulations governing the use of the condominium.

Boards of Directors usually will adopt rules and regulations which cover matters which either are not contained in the Bylaws such as how and where to store bicycles, or which need further amplification. For example, the Bylaws may allow pets. The Board can enact a rule spelling out the rights and responsibilities of pet owners.

Condominiums have three components. Lets look at them separately:

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  • Units: This is your space; this is where you live; you own it. In order to determine what is your space, you have to read your Declaration. Additionally, the units will be shown on the condominium Plat and Plans.

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  • Limited Common Elements: referred to as "LCE" This is a common element and is reserved exclusively for use by one or more, but less than all, of the unit owners in the condominium. Limited Common Elements may include balconies, roof decks, storage areas and parking spaces. The Declaration will define Limited Common Elements and the Plats should show where in the complex they are located.

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  • General common elements: This >

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Thus, you first need to determine whether the items you are questioning are part of the unit, a limited or a general common element. Your Declaration and your Plats and Plans should provide the answer.

In general, the maintenance responsibility for common elements -- including LCEs -- rests with the Association through its Board of Directors. While you have the right to use your patio, for example, you do not have the right to make any structural changes to it. If that balcony is in need of repair, only the Board of Directors has the authority to hire contractors. However, in some associations, the Board has the right to pass the cost of repairs on to the owner or owners who have exclusive right to the use of that LCE.

The answer to your question can be found in your legal documents, and specifically in the Declaration and the Plats and Plans. Every unit owner should have a complete set of the legal documents for his/her association, and should periodically review those documents. If you do not have a complete set of these documents, ask your property manager for a copy.

Your condominium unit is your investment, and you should understand your legal obligations.

But I want to toss your question back to you: what do you mean by "responsibility"?

As an owner in your association, you -- along with all other owners -- have certain basic responsibilities. You have to abide by the associations governing documents, whether or not you like them. If your balcony or patio is a limited common element which I suspect it is, or if the windows are common elements, you do not have the right to make any changes, modifications or improvements. You cannot damage, destroy or even alter common property.

You do have the right to lobby your Board of Directors to make the necessary or cosmetic changes, but that is a decision which rests solely with your Board. If you do not like their decision, you have only three choices: try to get elected to the Board, put up with the situation or move out.





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Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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